Born in a barn in 1909, Leo Fender seems an unlikely father of rock ’n’ roll. But as the man whose company perfected the solid-body electric guitar, his contribution to contemporary music cannot be overstated. Just take a look at the albums whose musicians thought enough of their Fender guitar to put it on the cover: Eric Clapton’s "Layla," Bruce Springsteen’s "Born To Run," Jeff Beck’s "Wired," The Pretenders’s (Chrissie Hynde) "Get Close," Bonnie Raitt’s "Nick of Time." The list of influential artists who play a Fender is just about endless.

Fender’s first solid-body electric guitar was introduced in 1950. It debuted as the one-pickup Esquire before the name of the two-pickup model was changed to Broadcaster. But Gretsch was already using the name Broadkaster on some of its instruments, so the name was changed again.

Between names, the company made the most of its remaining Fender Broadcaster decals by cutting off the word Broadcaster so that only the Fender brand made it onto the guitar’s headstock. Today, collectors call these guitars Nocasters. Only about 60 Nocasters were made, which makes them extremely collectible, but by April of 1951 the guitar would finally get a name that would stick, the Telecaster.

The Stratocaster came next in 1954. Unlike the Telecaster, whose ash body was outlined with rib-digging 45-degree edges, the Strat had a sculpted body that fit players like a glove. Three pickups gave the instrument unprecedented tonal range, as did a vibrato bar that would bend the guitar’s strings when pressed. And instead of the Telecaster’s blond, natural-wood finish, the Strat was offered in a number of colors, including the iconic sunburst (golden-yellow in the middle fading to black on the outside).

Solid-body electric bass guitars were also a Fender innovation. The Precision bass was introduced in 1951. It had a headstock that was virtually identical to that of the Telecaster and a body that turned out to be a preview of the 1954 Strat. By 1957, the Precision’s headstock had been redesigned to mirror the Stratocaster’s, and that version of the bass remains largely unchanged today. The Jazz Bass was added to the low-octave lineup in 1960, and a six-string bass was offered in 1961.

Fender launched two other major guitar lines in the 1950s. The first of these was a pair of low-cost models, the Duo-Sonic and the Musicmaster, both of which were introduced in 1956. These guitars were for kids who wanted to learn how to play without having to shell out the big bucks for a Stratocaster ($274.50 for a Strat versus $119.50 for a Musicmaster). The other initiative was a high-end guitar called the Jazzmaster, which retailed at the time for $329.50. It had a rosewood fingerboard on the standard maple neck, and switches that let the guitarist bounce between rhythm and lead sounds.

In 1962, Fender introduced the Jaguar, which combined a Jazzmaster body with a Stratocaster head. The Mustang, an update of the Duo-Sonic, was added in 1964. Years later, Nirvana...

But the 1960s are best known as the decade when Jimi Hendrix did things to his Stratocaster that nobody had thought possible, from setting it on fire to playing wailing, psychedelic versions of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Alas for Fender, it was also the decade that the company was sold to CBS—for Fender purists, the years 1965 to 1985 are like a 20-year musical drought.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Guitars Info

This great reference site features detailed sections on vintage guitar makers, including Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gr… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Want to see all the old brochures and ads for your favorite vintage axe? Check out this great site, which showcases… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Fender American Deluxe Ash Stratocaster - White Blonde With Case2006 Fender 60th Anniversary Diamond Edition Stratocaster* Vintage Squier Fender 80s? Stratocaster Electric Guitar White Made In Japan1952 Fender Precision Bass Guitar All Original Vintage Butterscotch Blond Fender Stratocaster Usa - Limited Edition - Mint Condition!Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster Electric Guitar Maple Fretboard White W/gig BagFender Squier Stratocaster Standard Series Guitar- Cherry Sunburst No Reserve Fender Stratocaster 1997 Usa Corona Excellent-beautiful Closet Queen No Reserve!Fender Mexican Standard Sunburst Precision P Bass1988 Fender American Stratocaster Tanqueray Green Limited Custom Shop RareFender Stratocaster Squier Standard Electric Guitar W/case1966 Vintage Fender Bandmaster Guitar Amplifier...excelent ConditionFender American Standard Precision Bass V With Rosewood Fingerboard Fender American Telecaster Highway One AwesomeFender Mim TelecasterFender Standard Precision Electric Bass Guitar - 2003 Mexican MadeFender Stratocaster Black Mim Maple Neck Fender American Vintage 62 Jazzmaster Electric Guitar1979 Fender Stratocaster Sundburst Electric Guitar1964 Vintage Fender Bassman Guitar And Bass AmplifierFender Highway One Telecaster Electric GuitarFender Stratocaster Mexico Black & White Electric Guitar1994 Fender American Stratocaster Electric GuitarCustom Vintage 60s Style Double Bound Black Body Fender Telecaster Strap ButtonsFender American Deluxe Ash Stratocaster - Aged Cherry Burst With Case Fender American Deluxe Ash Stratocaster Left Handed With Case! No ReserveFender Mim Stratocaster Neck Electric Guitar Mexico Neck Read !! Body Black Fender Strat Plus Loaded Pickguard Gold Lace Sensor Pickups Usa 90's GuitarFender American Standard Stratocaster W/maple Fingerboard - Olympic White W/caseFender Blacktop Telecaster Hh Seymour Duncan Upgrade Usa Mexican MimFender American Special Stratocaster Hss White Blonde Electric Guitar W/gigbagFender Road Worn 50s Telecaster Guitar, Blonde Nitro / Upgrades / Tweed Case2006 Fender Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster Maple Neck Custom Shop Design2015 Usa Fender Authentic Hendrix Pure Vintage 65 Strat Stratocaster PickupsFender American Standard Jazz Bass V 5 String Olympic White/ Rosewoo (s21002168)Fender Stratocaster Mz3203372 2003 Made In MexicoFender Stratocaster Special Edition #153 Of 250 Right Handed Electric Guitar1958 Fender Vibrolux Tweed Narrow Pannel1961 Fender Champ Lap Steel W/ CaseRare! '59-'61 Fender Tolex Electric Strat Guitar Case Cheney England Latches Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster Electric Guitar Pewter 2014Fender Custom Shop Relic Stratocaster Strat Neck John CruzAll White Mexican Fender Standard Telecaster Electric GuitarFender 2x12 CabinetStrat Stratocaster Guitar Neck Musikraft Fender Licensed Birdseye / RosewoodFender Fmt Telecaster HhUsed Mim Fender Fsr Cabronita Telecaster Sunburst Fidelitron Electric Guitar Bag1995/96 Fender Strat Plus Crimson Burst - Wow!Very Nice Fender American Special Telecaster-deluxe Gig Bag-full Pro Setup1966 Fender Bandmaster HeadFender Squier Stratocaster St-71 Jv-serial Vwh Clean !!Vintage Blackface 1964 Fender Showman Chassis - Project - No Reserve2011 Used Fender Stratocaster Deluxe Series Electric Guitar W/soft Case,stand Vintage Squier Fender Strat Stratocaster Ii Cream White Electric Guitar 1989 Mik Fender Stratocaster Telecaster Case Fender Tweed Hardshell Guitar Case No Rzv!Fender G&g Tweed Stratocaster/telecaster Case - Excellent Shape - No ReserveVintage 1970's Fender S10 3x2 Pedal Steel Guitar, W/ohsc, Carter Pedal E9th DvdFender Stratocaster Highway One Electric GuitarFender Hot Rod Deluxe UsaFender Mim Telecaster 2012 Sunburst With Tortoise Shell (cp1016741)